by John Newman
Madden NFL 17 is the latest installment of EA’s hit football game series. The overhauled connected franchise mode, revamped run game, and new commentary team are just some of the additions added to this year’s game. With all off these new improvements, Madden feels less like a video game and more like the real NFL. In today’s league, games are won in the trenches. And with the improved lineman AI in addition to gap assignments, virtual teams feel like their real life counterpart. I had success moving the chains with teams like the Cowboys and Titans. But when using the Seahawks, a team with a below average offense line, I had to scramble and rely on using Russell Wilson’s legs to avoid pressure.
In the past, special teams had been an overlooked aspect of Madden, despite playing a big role in today’s NFL. With Madden 17, special teams DO make a difference like they should. A variety of trick plays were added to the game, which provide a new dynamic never experienced before. Fake punts and kicks are rarely seen in football, but having the option to catch your opponent off guard is nice. Kicking field goals and extra points in madden used to be a given. The three-click kicking meter was reintroduced to the game, making it a challenge to score even a 40-yard field goal. Be careful- kicks can now be blocked! If you time the snap right, you might be able to disrupt a kick unblocked. Finally, you can now ice the kicker! When attempting a game-winning/tying field goal, opponents can call a timeout to “ice” the kicker, just like in real life. This changes the camera angle, which makes it difficult to nail the kick.
One of Madden’s most popular modes, Madden Ultimate Team (MUT), has returned once again! This mode allows you to assemble a lineup of different players together to build your very own team. Players receive upgrades in the forms of “cards”. You can add new cards by opening packs, trading for them, or purchasing them with in-game coins on the “auction house”. Solo challenges, which are shorter versions of regular games, reward you with coins, players, or packs upon completion. The structure of MUT has remained mostly the same as last year, but with a few improvements. As you may know, the NFL recently announced new “color rush” uniforms to be worn by teams on Thursday Night Football. EA brought these uniforms to the virtual gridiron this year, which have also been added to Ultimate Team. In addition, “chemistry” has been added to the game, allowing your players to receive boosted attributes when in the same lineup with players of the same chemistry. This is a game-changer, as many people will build their team around this new feature. Everyone has their own scheme, but chemistry truly allows you to make your team unique.
Draft Champions is also back for it’s 2nd year! Draft Champions (DC) is a mode that combines both fantasy football and Madden together. Using the pool of Madden Ultimate Team, players get 15 rounds to built upon the base team they are given. Each round lets you choose 1 of 3 cards. The first round is known as the “legend round”. You get to choose a player from the past, such as John Elway or Emmitt Smith, to be the cornerstone of your team. Once the draft is over, you can play online opponents who have also drafted their own teams. Your DC run is over when you get the required amount of wins (Either 6 or 4) or the maximum amount of losses (2 or 1). When you complete your run, you can get coin and player rewards in Madden Ultimate Team!
A newly added feature to Draft Champions is Friday Night Drafts (FND). Players get to draft two legends instead of one on Friday nights! In addition, the rewards are even better. When completing your run, you’ll receive FND badges to be used in FND sets within Madden Ultimate Team. These sets can be used to earn well-known players like Odell Beckham Jr, Derek Carr, Devonta Freeman, and many more! FND makes Fridays in Madden even more fun, and offer great rewards for those who play Ultimate Team.
By far, the most improved mode this year is Connected Franchise Mode (CFM). In previous iterations of Madden, I’ve always enjoyed being able to take control of a bad team and turning them into a contender. Drafting rookies in the 5th round and developing them into a superstar is an amazing feeling. Madden 17 allows me to do things with my franchise at a much faster pace. What used to be a slow grind is now more fluid thanks to newly added features such as “Play the Moments”. This feature allows me to sim the game to the crucial 3rd downs, red zone drives, and goal line stands. This way, I can get games done quicker while still relieving the intense moments.
Players can now be upgraded immediately after the game, which is very convenient. The game even suggests which attributes should be upgraded based on the player’s skills. Goals have also been added to the game, which is a great way for CFM to stay fresh. Players are given yearly goals, weekly goals, and even drive goals that they should aim to meet. By doing so, you can earn a significant amount of experience that can be used to progress players. But by far the most exciting new feature added to CFM was the new NFL draft interface. The game gives you a grade based on how smart your draft pick is, and the CPU even makes smart draft decisions based on their team needs! This new update to CFM make it feel much more authentic, and tons of community suggestions were implemented to make it even better.
Madden NFL 17 has completely changed the direction the series was headed to. With the new focus on the running game and defensive zones, the game has finally found a realistic balance. The realism added a layer of difficulty to the game that was much needed. Although it may be challenging to new players, there’s nothing skills trainer and practice mode can’t fix. Madden is finally the realistic virtual football experience we’ve been waiting for, and this year’s version makes a case for one of the best sports video games ever made.